Monday, August 6, 2012

Multiplication Made Easy?! Um, Yes!

Please note: 
This product is no longer available from the website, unfortunately.  However, I decided not to remove it from my blog, because so many people on facebook have asked about ways to learn multiplication facts easily.  Although my youngest two have been in Classical Conversations for several years, learning skip counting has not been the best tool for them to grow independent in their recall.  This product (as well as Math U See's Gamma program) have been the single best resources we've used for learning multiplication facts.  The principles from Glenda Brown Jame's program are easy to replicate at home into manageable pieces, and the scissor-and-glue activities can be easy to replicate or alter for your child's needs and interests.

If you want to know the biggest asset to a prospective reviewer for Schoolhouse Review Crew must have it is flexibility.  Even if you are using a curriculum or program that you love, you might need to abandon it {temporarily} to try something new.  And that's what we have had to do with math this summer.  The opportunity to review Math Made Easy multiplication came up, and I could not say no.  So far (four weeks into a six week program), so good.

The author, Ms. Brown James, breaks multiplication into bite-sized pieces over the course of 6+ weeks.  Her home school program is reasonably priced at $24.95. This is designed for 3rd-4th graders.

How It Works:

First: Teach your child the "easy" facts using some tricks:
  • x 0 is always going to have an answer of 0.  
  • x 1 will always have an answer of the other factor
  • x10 will always add a zero to the other factor
  • x11 will always double the other factor in both the tens and ones places.
After introducing this idea, there are a few pages of worksheets to reinforce this idea, and you can collect the flashcards for these facts from the pre-scored sets of flashcards in the back of the book.

Second: Systematically teach the remaining 36 fact pairs (4x5 and 5x4 are mirrored pairs).  Your student is taught both of these facts at the same time.  At this point, you abandon memorizing fact sets (like all the x3's) and are teaching your child pre-determined sets of six facts.  For example, the first week Luke learned:
8x2     3x3     9x6     2x7     5x5     8x4

These facts are taught in a variety of ways:
  • Daily worksheets.  They are labeld with the days of the week to help you keep track of where you are.  I appreciate the variety of tasks on these worksheets:
  • Flashcards.   We use these daily and add in some from the previous weeks to keep it all fresh.  
  • End of week review: This looks like a traditional multiplication worksheet, aggregating all the facts your child has learned. 
  • Crafty learning tools: An apple which is supposed to reveal the product under the worm:

{It doesn't line up perfectly for all the facts;  I do wish this worked a little better.}
    A game:

And this thing, which I'm sure more crafty teachers figured out before I did.  I was really unsure what these three pieces were going to make: 
  1. Sets of six feathers (1 set for each week)

    3 Native Americans on a sheet of cardstock (1 for each week)
    Six of these branch-like things (with products on it)

    As I was cutting out the sets for week 2 (we didn't use this during week 1), I finally realized what Luke would be creating: 

I went ahead and penciled in the answer on the opposite side of the feather, so that Luke could check his work independently and use this a couple times before gluing it together on Friday. I don't think he'll want to color it in, but that would be a good option for craftier kids.

    My thoughts and recommendations:   The math programs we've used up to this point tend to take the approach of teaching kids the "why" behind math.  Here, the author does recommend that you teach kids that multiplication is fast adding and that 4x5 is four groups of 5 objects, but that is as far as it goes for "whys." There is one worksheet per week that asks the child to draw out 4 sets of 5 apples and then determine the total.  But at it's heart, this program is about memorizing 6 facts each week.

    This has been a great fit for us.  Luke already knew about 6 fact families before starting this, and to be honest, I was not looking forward to reviewing and starting up again in a few weeks.  What I love about it is:

    1.  Manageable number of facts to learn each week:  6
    2.  Variety of worksheets
    3.  Variety of facts to prevent over-reliance on skip counting (Luke was really good at skip counting x3 and it took a little while before they became solid facts for him).
    4.  All-in-one packet.
    5.  Reproduceable within your own family.

    I do wish the instructions for several of the learning tools were more clear and I do wish the apple lined up better!  Although the materials are on a cardstock (or even a coverstock weight paper), I think they could use a bit more professional layout so that student and teacher are not disappointed.

    Overall, I'm pleased with this program, and plan to keep working through all six weeks before we re-start our usual math program in the fall.  I'm hopeful that the hard work we are doing now will bear fruit in the fall, and we'll breeze through the remainder of his current math program (which is heavy on multiplication right now) and be ready to learn division soon.

    And, when Levi gets to this stage of math, you can bet that I'll pull out this resource and use it again.

    If you'd like to see how other families used this product, as well as Ms. Brown James' companion product, Addition Made Easy, please click on the banner below:


    Disclaimer: As a member of the TOS Crew, I received this product, at no cost to me, in exchange for my honest review. All opinions are mine.

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